Music Transcends Borders: Somalia

We invited Thibaut Remy the guitarist/producer in AWALÉ to put together a mix of his favourite Somali songs for our Music Transcends Borders Series. Thibaut Remy has worked with many afro centered musicians and bands in London. He is currently working on Aar Maanta’s forthcoming album. Aar Maanta led him to rediscover a lot of great music from Somalia’s golden era, from the 60’s until the late 80’s when the country enjoyed stability.

‘We always love re-visiting some of the great classic tunes with the current Aar Maanta and the Urban Nomads line-up, such as Uur Hooyo, Shimbir, or Keenee Gardaran.

In this selection, I wanted to share some of the Somali Pop music itself influenced by the west, James Brown, Michael Jackson and more, best represented by Dur-dur band or Iftin Band.

“Garsore Waa Ilaah”—“God is the judge, only God judges fair.” This song discusses a couple and the consequences of love. In thinking about her decision to be in love, the girl says, “I’m up for the journey but are you going to help me with this decision?” She is up for the journey but asks the guy for help along the way. She wonders how many people have made plans to live together and love one another but have never reached their goal and end up separated.

Also some of the more traditional tunes, such as Uur Hooyo and Shimbir, have themselves been covered and rearranged in more popular somali styles, but it’s great to hear them in a rawer form, and to hear the typical Somali melodies performed on the oud. I was actually extremely privileged to meet Hudeidi , a very old and respectable Oud player and composer who wrote Uur Hooyo, as Aar Maanta brought me to his flat in London to record some Oud.

Mohamed Saleeban is nicknamed the King of voice, So he had to be included, and I really like the groove on Xusuus.

Finally Maryam Mural is one of the few contemporary somali artists that has managed to develop a new sound in collaboration with Real World records, as most Somali singers stick to the same formula of teaming up with very able and talented Somali producers, who write and produces the entire music from one or two cheesy sounding keyboards, which often means current Somali music doesn’t manage to cross over beyond  the Somali audiences.’


Mohamed Saleebaan – Xusuus

Mystery tune

Durdur band garsore waaIlaah

Iftin Toban Weeye Shaqalladu

Mohamed Saleebaan Uur Hooyo

Iftin Band Jeeri One

Maryam Mursal – Nin Xun

Hees Hanuuniye – Shimbir

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